Divorce is hard enough on parents and kids, but when kids begin playing divorced parents against each other, it can become extremely trying and increasingly frustrating for all concerned. This experience is especially disconcerting when divorced parents do not get along and/or lack communication skills, but if parents did not get along while married, many certainly will not get along or communicate effectively after they are divorced, even in matters involving the kids.
When kids seem to be playing divorced parents against each other, consider the following advice and information on how to stop the problem. Many kids learn that playing married parents against each other works to their advantage, and for kids of divorced parents, this tactic is even easier. When kids are playing divorced parents against each other, they are more likely to get their way, and kids that continually get their way can end up completely out of control and in trouble. Playing parents against each other is a common problem, and what works to a kid’s advantage when parents are divorced might eventually become their downfall. Fortunately it is possible to stop the madness and regain control.
The following information and advice is not meant to take the place of professional counseling or therapy. It is based on personal experience. If a child is unusually depressed, angry, out of control, or if they seem to be in the depths of despair, do not assume they are simply trying to gain attention. Seek an immediate mental assessment from a licensed mental health professional, and follow up with family counseling.
Set Definite Rules Regarding Parental Permission
Rules can vary greatly from one household to another, and although differences are to be expected, concerned parents will agree that the safety and the future of their kids is of the utmost importance. Kids cannot be allowed to run the streets and do as they please without regard to rules and expectations, but unfortunately not all parents set boundaries. Some are guilty of allowing their kids to do as they please as long as they stay out of their hair, and out of trouble. Others know where their kids are at all times and maintain control. Unfortunately, when the one parent does not know how to say no, the parent trying to control the situation ends up hitting a brick wall.
When divorced parents do not agree, maintaining control can be an enormous problem, especially when kids are visiting or living with the more lenient parent. When one parent says no, kids attempt to gain permission from the other parent. This is when kids make an attempt at playing one parent against the other. After the other parent says yes, the kids ignore the demands of the parent that initially said no, and this creates a myriad of problems.
Hold a Meeting with All Concerned
One of the most effective ways to stop children from playing divorced parents against each other is to hold a meeting with their best interests in mind – if the other parent is willing. Whether the meeting is in a therapist’s office or in the home, divorced parents should make their expectations clear in the presence of the children. To stop kids from playing divorced parents against each other, they must realize that when mom or dad says no, they cannot petition the other parent in an attempt to receive the answer they are seeking. Once children realize that mom and dad are not going to go against each other’s wishes, and once they fully understand that mom and dad are not going to change their minds, they will hopefully stop their attempts at playing one against the other.
Source: Porter-Starke Services Therapist